It Takes a Network for CMOs to Stay On Top

Combine velocity and volatility with the 24/7 global business cycles and it becomes virtually impossible for any leader to stay on top of his or her game. For Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), staying on top can spell the difference between success and failure, for them as well as their companies.

Marketo funded a qualitative study looking into emerging marketing trends. A wide range B2B and B2B2C Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) participated, representing companies ranging in size from the Fortune 10 to early stage start-ups across financial services, manufacturing, high technology and SaaS industries.

Only 24 Hours in the Day

A common refrain heard in the study were the challenges of juggling multiple demands on time, while trying to keep up to date.

Andy, a CMO of a Fortune 15 healthcare services company summed it up well, “I have internal goals to meet and pressures to address that are not based on best practices or what is happening in the marketing discipline. Seventy percent of my time is spent on internal constituents.”

And when the question of travel came up, CMOs said they needed to define priorities.

Andy shared a sentiment that was echoed by most CMOs, “Conferences don’t do it for me; networking with peers is more useful. But it needs to be local.” Katy, another study participant is the CMO with a high profile Fortune 1000 social technology vendor, shared, “When I’m out of town or at conferences, I’m with customers. They are my priority.”

CMOs want to network with peers, but LinkedIn Groups, exclusive meetups, CMO-only conferences and CMO tracks at conferences offer little perceived value and require valuable time out of office. If they have to travel, CMOs opt to meet with prospects and customers before sitting in a conference or dinner meeting, regardless of how prestigious the group is.

When do CMOs find time to read from the daily deluge of posts and articles available? They don’t. Not from lack of interest or motivation, but from a lack of time. Just as customers are overwhelmed and fatigued by the constant bombardment of information, so too is the CMO. CMOs regularly scan a handful of publications including Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Forbes and McKinsey reports. The topics of interest vary based on the issues facing them and the company. Andy summed it up with “if a topic peaks my interest, I’ll read more.”

4 Strategies, 1 Secret

CMOs employ 4 strategies to stay on top:

  1. Routinely visit customers to understand market shifts and new expectations.
  2. Network with a handful of trusted peers by scheduling periodic calls or meet ups.
  3. Stay in touch with trusted consultants and influencers.
  4. Hire right.

The CMOs who succeed at staying current share a common secret: they rely heavily on their teams. “I’m constantly blasted with ideas from my team and they educate me,” shared Katy. “I’m very focused on hiring a good team and giving them room to grow and experiment.”

By adding new roles — many of which didn’t exist five years ago — CMOs are rapidly evolving their teams’ competency portfolio:

  • Social engagement and community managers
  • Chief content officer, evangelists, editors, chief listener, chief storyteller
  • Data scientist, marketing operations, business analyst, center of excellence managers
  • Chief customer officers, customer experience analysts, customer marketing specialist, employee engagement strategist
  • Digital/growth acquisition, digital experience marketers, lifecycle marketers, marketing technologist

Hiring the right candidate is challenging, regardless of company size or industry. It’s difficult to find the right person out of a large candidate pool who fits the culture, offers the right expertise and is interested in joining the company. Marketing leaders of large and small companies resort to hiring from their network. The candidate quality is higher and frequently a better fit.

Larger, established companies face an additional obstacle of not being considered ‘hot’ enough. This reduces the pool of candidates substantially for key positions in analytics, data science, modeling and digital marketing. Millennials — who make up the majority of the candidates — feel that large or mature companies would restrict their creativity, mobility, opportunities and need for flexibility. To keep competitive, established company CMOs evolve their culture, structures and spend a lot of time selling their vision of the company.

CMOs with brand cache companies have the reverse problem: retention. Their employees are constantly being recruited away with lucrative offers, creating in one case 20 percent annual turnover. These CMOs retain top talent by regularly moving people between roles and increasingly offering high performers more latitude, responsibility and opportunities to do new things.

One irony in this growing reliance on teams is that anyone seeking to woo the CMO as their ideal target buyer, need to redirect the marketing and sales strategy to win the hearts and minds of their subordinates.

Building the Business Case for Marketing Hires

Any discussion of adding headcount brings with it the age old conundrum of how to justify hires in environments where the business case is based on revenue ROI. Unfortunately many of the new marketing competencies required to build awareness, reach, engagement, credibility and loyalty in this “age of the customer” are either indirectly linked or are too new for anyone to have hard data on their impact on quantifiable revenue.

CMOs cited two strategies on how to justify new hires:

1. Contract with candidates to complete a high visibility project

Engage the candidate as a contractor for a project that has high visibility with key constituents and let the value-add and impact of the project’s results “sell themselves.” This approach is effective for some positions such as videographer, sales enablement, field marketing/ops and digital branding, but doesn’t apply to all positions.

2. Redefine traditional roles with new competencies

Reduce traditional marketing headcount in print advertisement, etc. and repurpose them for new competencies. This approach is used to bring in data scientists, social managers and digital branding where the link to revenue is not directly measurable.

CMOs are building networks made of employees, contractors, Martech vendor specialists and influencers to gain the agility that companies. Clark, a CMO with a Fortune 1000 SaaS Financial Software provider, values this approach as it “enables me to have continuous access to the best and brightest while easily adjusting the mix in response to market and business changes.”

The CMOs who stay on top of their game know, this is no one person job.

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